Brexit Brief: The Last Straw

Posted on 23rd May 2019

Failure to launch

After just over a month of pushing and pulling and to nobody’s surprise, cross-party talks have failed. The impasse was predictable: Conservatives want to negotiate their own trade deals, Labour wants a confirmatory referendum and a permanent customs union, and neither can reach far enough to meet in the middle. At any rate, both leaders lacked a majority within their own parties to support a potential compromise.

Get ready, set, go

After failed negotiations, devastating local election results and poor electoral forecasts in the European elections, the prime minister announced that she would set a timetable for her departure. This comes after discussions with the 1922 Committee, the official forum for rank-and-file Conservatives, which had grown impatient with May’s leadership and her refusal to set a departure date. Now, reports of a secret ballot by senior party activists for a confidence vote could set a firm exit date for this Friday. While May prepares her departure, others have started the leadership race, with Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab in the lead, closely chased by Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove.

Last attempt

Despite previous failed attempts and with one foot out the door, the prime minister will table her deal in the week of 3 June. The “improved package” is expected to include measures on workers’ rights and environmental protection and open the House of Commons floor for a series of indicative votes on a “customs compromise” and confirmatory referendum. Amid last night’s cabinet resignation and opposition from as many as 70 Conservative MPs, the prime minister is trying to salvage the Withdrawal Agreement Bill so it stands a chance in Westminster.

Back to the polls

Today, voters across the United Kingdom will cast their votes for the 73 seats up for grabs in the European Parliament. Similar to the local elections earlier this month, the Conservative and Labour parties could expect a disappointing night as the (very much pro-) Brexit Party attracts anti-EU Conservatives and pro-Brexit Labour voters. Meanwhile, Remain-supporting voters will turn to Liberal Democrats and Greens. Once elected, MEPs will join the parliament on 2 July and make a swift return as soon as a deal is passed in Westminster.

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